Monday 25 November 2013

New self-training regime

I have finally updated my self-training regime, post JKA (Japan Karate Association) dan shinsa, to address my newfound weaknesses—and move forward. In brief, here is a blueprint of my schedule. I hope that it finds you well.

Kata: I am currently  training the following kata: (a) The six shitei-gata (Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Heian Sandan, Heian Yondan, Heian Godan and Tekki Shodan); (b) The four sentei-gata (Bassai-dai, Kanku-dai, Empi and Jion); and (c) Two jiyu-gata—Nijushiho and one other randomly self-selected kata each day (based on my intentions/feeling/goals).

Kihon: Essentially my kihon is based on my current kata regime; hence, I outlined my kata training first. For example, the timing of the hands/arms with body shifting, the reservation of the pivot foot etcetera. Presently, this is the bulk of my kihon training; however, I have been topping this off by going through the Japan Karate Association kihon exams… A sort of mock test to push myself to the limit.

Kumite: (i) The bunkai (analysis) of Nijushiho kata, especially pertaining oyo (applications); and (ii)  Uchikomi/Jiyu Kumite training.

Overall, I have some major targets in 2014, which I am now aiming for. Regardless of whether they materialise or not, my aim is to use them to continue pushing forward. All the very best,  André Bertel.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2013).

Saturday 2 November 2013


Contrastingly over the years, I have seen numerous people leave karate because they couldn’t win at competition level, or were champions who were finally defeated and their spirit was broken; likewise, I have seen many people quit because they couldn’t pass a particular kyu or dan test. These people, in my opinion, missed the point of karate-do: the battle with them-selves was lost—as their focus was on “end points” rather than the journey—which I believe defines Karate-Do. My question is “How can one focus on destinations when practicing karate when, in reality, destinations/achievements are just moments in the wider scheme of time? Especially when considering the blatantly obvious point that time keeps moving”… Also, without being pessimistic, what is success/achievement? Notwithstanding, this can’t help one to think of the words of the Greek philosophers… Parmenides immediately comes to mind... In sum, the underlying principle of `DO’ in budo, and other traditional Japanese art forms, is that of “a journey: as opposed to a destination”.
Grading examinations and tournaments: So what about entering competitions, taking kyu and dan exams, qualification tests etcetera? Perhaps one should just train? …There is nothing wrong with tournaments, examinations and the like… Of course, they are wonderful goals! It is great to train towards a gold medal in a competition, or the next rank. In my opinion it is essential to experience these things. Not experiencing competition, and attempting examinations, is nearly as bad as quitting altogether… Why? Because the same things that make people quit karate are the same things that stop them from participating in such events.

EGO & FEAR: Not trying to enter tournaments, or trying for the next rank is often connected with ego and/or fear of failure. Again, this elucidates too much internalised focus on the destination as opposed to the bigger picture. People think “how I will look if so and so beats me in the kumite?” or they are too scared to walk out in front of examiners—to have their technique scrutinised. Being free from our ego turns us into LIBERATED HUMAN BEINGS; moreover, it strengthens us by pushing us “to face and overcome our inherent fears”. This is where competition and kyu/dan examinations really benefit us. But like all things these points should not be taken to the extreme: ideological balance is pivotal.
My personal kotowaza is to “LOSE MAGNIFICENTLY”. Don’t merely seek to win or pass, seek to improve your execution of karate and personal development in general. Seek to perform the best you can, because your best is your best... Don’t worry about `the best of others’, simply appreciate them and focus on what you have to do to improve. My aim in kumite is to always seek an ippon, I always fully commit with my attack and try to express my kihon. When this results in my defeat, so be it. My only loss is when I don’t commit, irrespective of winning or losing a match. By never seeking a wazari one can do their very best, then, if the wazari is achieved, it still has meaning. This is merely an example of losing magnificently, and of course it transcends the realms of shobu ippon.
In conclusion, always focus on the here and now in your karate-do training, and plan for the future. When you are successful in your endeavours, great… Well done… But don’t immerse yourself in glory. It’s time to move on… If you fail, ascertain why, and train hard to correct these flaws. Even if you never reach the goals you have set yourself, I assure you that, by following this way, you WILL maximise yourself. More than this, your karate training will then also function as a tangible resource to strengthen your spirit, self-confidence, courage, determination and self-efficacy. Remember, “The journey is what matters, not the destinations (plural)”. Overall, the destinations along the path are merely tools that contribute towards the greater whole: this, to me, is Karate-Do.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2013).